WEST HILLS — When the gate swings open and the freshly painted blue doors unlock Tuesday morning at Haynes Street School for the first time in 16 years, students and parents brimming with excitement will be taking part in a rare renaissance.
The rebirth of a school.
Where an abandoned building surrounded by broken beer bottles and a jungle of overgrown weeds once stood withering, a peach-colored schoolhouse now stands with its four shiny basketball hoops and a dewy lawn. Inside the carpeted library, pristine picture books sit waiting to be cracked open by young, hungry minds.
Faced with increasing enrollment and overcrowding, the Los Angeles Unified School District ordered Haynes and two other schools to be reopened.
The district's enrollment, currently about 668,000, is expected to swell by 50,000 students by 2001. Newcastle Avenue Elementary School in Reseda and Osage Avenue Elementary School in Westchester are expected to open in 1999 to ease the space crunch.
For the principal, parents, teachers and students gearing up for the revival of Haynes, this is more than a new school. With energetic instructors, an innovative curriculum and computers wired for the Internet in each of the 22 classrooms, Haynes represents a fresh new way of looking at public education, parents say.
Like several Haynes parents, Denise Carlton pulled her 6-year-old son, Benjamin, from private school because she was impressed by the potential at Haynes.
"It has everything that private schools have," Carlton said during an ice cream social at the school last week.
"More importantly, I like the feeling here. It's like baseball. We're all happy to be a part of the team. In a big city like Los Angeles, it's nice to feel like part of a little community."
Haynes was built on Lockhurst Drive in 1961 to accommodate about 500 students. But, when mandatory school busing took effect in the 1970s, parents fled LAUSD and Haynes' enrollment dipped to 179 students. The school closed in 1982, and nearby Lockhurst Drive School absorbed most of the students. The building was then leased to a private school.
When the district decided last year to reopen Haynes, a $1.2-million renovation project began, including painting, landscape work, plumbing and installation of air conditioning. Each classroom got a television set, five computers and new textbooks.
Principal Usafi Diamond said she intends to make Haynes one of the best public schools in the country.
"I want Haynes to be recognized nationally as a school that provides powerful learning in a highly motivated and technologically advanced way," she said.
There are 310 students enrolled at Haynes, with more expected in coming weeks. Of those enrolled, 249 children are either overflow or open enrollment students. About 61 will be bused from Hazeltine Avenue Elementary School.
Teachers Emma Stokes and Mindy Levine are eager to have breathing room. They had worked together for two years as pre-kindergarten team teachers, sharing a classroom at Canoga Park Elementary School.
"It's wonderful to be working with fewer students and a smaller group of teachers," said Levine, who will be teaching kindergarten. "And it's a beautiful school."
Fifth-grade teacher Jim Lebovitz agreed. "The whole faculty is excited. This is basically being built from the ground up."
At the ice cream social, a small town feeling prevailed. Tables displayed the new textbooks and class rosters. Students bopped to the sounds of the macarena. Parents shared in the enthusiasm and signed up to volunteer for fund-raising.
Teachers had posted wish lists. Third-grade teacher Neysa Madison wished for an aquarium and big pillows. First-grade teacher Brahmashakti Fudail wished for a puppet theater and floor puzzles.
Nancy Wood had extra reason to celebrate the reopening. The legal secretary, who lives around the corner from Haynes, will have to walk only a few steps to drop off her 7-year-old daughter, Kariann, at school.
"We've been watching the transformation over the past months and it has changed dramatically," Wood said. "Having a school so close to home feels great."
Kariann, a third-grader, gave Haynes her approval for a different reason.
"I like having the grass because if you fall you won't scrape your knee. You'll just get grass stains," she said.
Anton Gorenc, who transferred his son, Dimieri, 5, from Canoga Park Methodist School, could not be happier.
"We're really impressed," he said. "Since March, when we first decided we wanted our son here, it's been nothing but positive. And, of course, having a fresh facility is incredible. You can just tell by talking to all the teachers. These people really care."
Dimieri was more concise.
"Cool," he said.